As we expected when we tested AMD's new flagship Ryzen 9 3950X with 16 cores instead of testing it on the high-end Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme, we want to see how it works on the low-end. We're not dealing with A320 boards – that's a bit silly – but decent AMD B450 boards make sense, maybe not right now, but as a potential upgrade for many AM4 owners in the future. Here's what we think …
The R9 3950X is a processor for $ 750. A combination with motherboards costing just over $ 100 is not currently considered by most. In the not too distant future, however, you can secure a used 3950X with a substantial discount. This is exactly how it seems to be the case with AMD processors.
There are a few reasons for this, but the two main reasons are that AMD doesn't tie you to a platform like Intel, so second-hand buyers have significantly more options. And AMD seems to have a habit of lowering prices for CPUs over time, and this obviously creates an impetus for second-hand sales.
For example, the 3-year-old Core i7-7700K, released for $ 340, still costs ~ $ 220 on the used market today. This is only a 35% discount for a part with no guarantee. In the meantime, the Ryzen 7 1700X, which was offered at $ 400 almost three years ago, can be easily purchased for $ 100, which is a 75% discount off new products.
What is more shocking is that the 1700X is a much better processor for almost all tasks at the end of 2019. In addition, in a year or two more there will be almost no new game or application in which the quad-core Core i7 can hold a candle for the 8-core Ryzen 7.
As another example, the recently released Ryzen 7 2700X was launched for $ 330. Today you can buy one on eBay for just $ 150. In no other year will you pay more than $ 100. While the Ryzen 9 3950X may cost $ 750 today, you can bet it will be cheaper within a year and a hot item for used buyers on the AM4 platform in 2-3 years. The same applies to the 3900X.
If you bought this 2nd generation Ryzen CPU a year ago and did it with a decent B450 motherboard, you're golden. In 2-3 years, be sure to check out a 16-core upgrade to find out what a new Ryzen 5 2600 would have set you back in 2018.
Mark this part of the set with an asterisk, * decent B450 board *, there weren't many of them, and we discovered this in mid-2018 when we released our B450 VRM temp test. Asus and Gigabyte produced some of the worst budget boards we've seen in a while, while MSI surprised us with high-quality options in the B450 Tomahawk and B450 Pro Carbon.
For a quick recap, the Asrock B450 Gaming K4 peaked at 86 degrees and the MSI B450 Tomahawk peaked at 88 degrees with a stock Ryzen 7 2700X in a 21C room with no direct airflow. Meanwhile, the Asus ROG Strix B450-F Gaming reached 109 degrees and the Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro Wi-Fi an incredible 121 degrees. The tests also included an ATX drop test with high airflow, and here the Asus and Gigabyte boards ran much cooler at 64 to 67 degrees.
For us, the test "no direct airflow" was the most meaningful. At the time, we knew that the AM4 platform would continue for a few more years, and we knew that more extreme processors like the 3900X and 3950X models would be released. Given what we already know about these B450 motherboards based on testing with the Ryzen 7 2700X, we don't expect too many surprises when we put the high-end Ryzen 9 3950X in the driver's seat.
This time, however, we will not be testing without direct airflow. That would take too much of these boards under $ 150, but since we're testing at an optimal room temperature of 21 degrees, we'll include a low airflow configuration along with a high airflow configuration. All tests take place in the Corsair Crystal 570X.
Ryzen 9 / B450 VRM temperature test
In the low airflow configuration, two intake fans are attached to the front of the chassis on a 240mm AIO. Then we have a single 120mm exhaust fan on the back of the case, a fairly standard configuration.
The high airflow configuration adds a pair of intake fans to the top of the housing. You would normally configure them as exhaust fans. However, for this test, we wanted to blow cool air over the board's VRM heatsink for maximum cooling performance, so we consider this a best case scenario.
All motherboards used the latest BIOS and all run AGESA version 188.8.131.52. The Ryzen 9 3950X was kept in stock, so it should be a little less demanding than the 3900X. Now we come to the results …
First, let's run some benchmarks to see how each board with the Ryzen 9 3950X behaves using the low airflow configuration. Please note that the Asus ROG Strix B450-F gaming overloaded the 3950X, which resulted in a slight increase in performance. Of course, this also increased the VRM temperatures. Therefore, we set a negative offset of 0.150 V, which makes the Asus board more sensitive to the voltages of Gigabyte and MSI cards.
Unfortunately, this has reduced performance and here we see that the Cinebench R20 multi-core score drops 6% compared to Tomahawk and Aorus Pro. The MSI and Gigabyte boards have managed to match the performance of the $ 700 Aorus Xtreme. So that was nice to see.
We see fairly similar performance trends when we look at the performance of a single core, even though we use only a single core, the undervoltage has still reduced the performance in B450-F gaming.
Contrary to what we just saw at Cinebench, the Asus board actually did slightly better in this long-term blender test with the undervoltage, and the reason for this is lower VRM temperatures. Basically, the lower voltage has helped reduce CPU throttling, and we'll get to that in a moment. In terms of performance, we see that Tomahawk and Aorus Pro could keep up with the Aorus Xtreme. This is another good sign for these budget boards.
Here you can see how badly the Asus Strix B450-F Gaming is configured with the latest BIOS. The board increased the total system consumption with the 3950X to 266 watts, which is almost 20% more power than with the Tomahawk with the same CPU.
With the MSI Tomahawk and Gigabyte Aorus Pro, the power consumption was reduced by almost 10% compared to the high-end motherboard X570 Aorus Xtreme.
Here's a look at the VRM temperature results for the low airflow configuration. Above we see the operating temperature and the resulting performance side by side. Lower is better for both.
The MSI Tomahawk achieved a strong result in Blender. The test lasted 1819 seconds and is therefore on a par with the best X570 boards. The VRM also peaked at just 87 degrees, which is an exceptional result for a board that costs ~ $ 120.
The Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro WiFi surprised with the second best result, even though it was 10 degrees hotter than the Tomahawk, and although it is a bit roasted, that's a safe operating temperature and the board avoided throttling the 3950X.
The Asus Strix B450-F Gaming was a disaster from the start and reached 112 ° C, which led to 3950 times downclocking. The completion time increased by 7% compared to the Tomahawk. Apart from the performance, we think this is a mistake, since operating at well over 100 ° C will shorten the life of the board. Even with the undervoltage, the board was still below average and ran excessively hot, so the B450-F gaming is basically a terrible pairing for the 3900X or 3950X and frankly isn't good with the Ryzen 7 2700X either.
However, there is some good news: if you channel a large amount of cool air over the Asus board, it is useful, not very good compared to the competition, but it works a little better. Tomahawk's performance is still poor, so we encountered throttling even at 88 ° C in this 30-minute test.
The MSI Tomahawk was impressive and peaked at just 66 ° C. Although this is an optimal setup, you can expect this board to work between 66 and 87 degrees depending on the setup and ambient temperature.
The Gigabyte Aorus Pro was 15 degrees hotter, which is not great, but the board avoided throttling and managed to get the most out of the 3950X, so a total pass.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk proves once again why it is the cheapest and best all-round B450 motherboard. Although we used the newer Max version for this test, the performance is identical to that of the original. With the newer version, which is unfortunately still not for sale in the USA, you only get better BIOS support.
For those who want to buy a B450 board for use with Ryzen 5 3600 or Ryzen 7 3700X today, we still recommend purchasing the MSI B450 Tomahawk or Pro Carbon. The Pro Carbon is a little expensive at around $ 140. For this money, you can also take a look at an X570 board. We strongly recommend that you skip the MSI X570 entry-level boards as they are terrible and are in the same class as the Asus B450-F Gaming.
Conversely, we recommend the Asus X570 series. For example, the TUF Gaming X570-Plus is a good board for $ 165. For more information on great motherboard picks, check out our top 5 X570 motherboards and preferred B450 motherboards. You will find a good summary there.
Those of you who followed our advice and bought the MSI B450 Tomahawk for your build have good news. Once these 3900X and 3950X CPUs drop in price, you're ready for a serious CPU upgrade without having to change anything.
One last note: We say that the Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro WiFi surprised us in this test. The last time we ran a similar test on the first F1 BIOS version with a Ryzen 7 2700X, it was a disaster. But Gigabyte seems to have done a good job, and although it is far from impressive, it can now even be used with the 3950X. So that's great to see.